Royal Crown Revue: Caught in the Act

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The crowd is raucous; a roughneck, with outrageous Brooklyn patois intones an announcement. “Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, welcome to the Mint...and now, without further ado, it is my honor and privilege to introduce to you, for their stint at the Mint, the Royal Crown Revue!” The famous beat ensues, and the horns tear off “Sing Sing Sing”. There’s a rap about jazzbos hitting the beach, but that can be ignored. The drums splash, the trumpeter rasps, and the baritone has that good solid honk. Their “Sing” is the Goodman version, complete with the “Christopher Columbus” midsection; it’s short but it works. A final crash, and the cheers are deafening. The show has begun.

James Achor hits a tangy lick, and we “Boogie After Midnight”, a solid jumper with romping horns. Mando Dorame has a decent solo: a little grit and a slowly building heat. Achor is better: a loud bit between blues and rockabilly. The horns hit a riff from the Dovells’ “You Can’t Sit Down” (is this eclectic or what?) and we hit a long fadeout, with the crowd shouting “Boogie After Midnight!” as Eddie Nichols takes it home. The joint is jumping; they’re in the mood, all right.

A bit of a shift now: “we’re gonna do you a little Vegas, so pretend you’re losing your ass out there.” Achor takes a great bouncy line, and Eddie goes into “Something’s Gotta Give” with Sinatra inflection. It’s not up to Frank’s standards (surprised?) but Nochols is surprisingly close – not a lounge singer’s parody, but the real thing. “Honey Child” has a deadly horn riff, similar to that on Billy Stewart’s “Summertime” – deadly. “Park’s Place” is a steaming bebop blues. There’s a teensy vocal (simple words, but effective), then the horns take over. Mando is good, and Scott Steen steals it with vicious trumpet. (Catch the “Salt Peanuts” quote at the end – blink and you’ll miss it.)

“That wasn’t fast enough!” Eddie jokes. He than puts a wordless vocal on “The Mooche”, which is kept short (I wanna hear the horns!) Bill Ungerman steps forth with rusty baritone, popping all the right notes, and Mando has his best solo, a blast of early-morning despair. The jungle sound continues on “Hey Pachuco!” – with a vengeance. The words are tough (about the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943) ; the music more so. Steen has another great solo – it gets the crowd clapping. The bass solo quotes “Big Noise from Winnetka”, and Danny Glass gets a nice Latin sound on his turn, (“Watch ‘im fly,” says Eddie.) It’s eight minutes long, and over like that.

The homestretch is fun, with unexpected delights. “Who Dat?” quotes “The Odd Couple”, and leads to the infectious “Mousetrap”. It isn’t a Raymond Scott cartoon theme, but it sure sounds like it! Mando sails fast, the riff pushing him on. “Datin’ with No Dough” has a sly lyric with a classic theme – a totally authentic jump blues. (Well, it’s a 32-bar song, but you know what I mean!) Mando walks the bar – him and handclaps – for “Hot Rod”, emphasis on the “hot”. The band shouts “Go, man, go!” and he does. (The quotes are “Peter and the Wolf” – and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett!”) If that wasn’t enough, “Poppity Pop” has “Lester Leaps In”, an explosive Steen, top struttin’ from Mando, and more TV themes! Ungerman has the best solo, and Eddie has a fun scat way better than his earlier attempt. You won’t believe the end – the “Flintstones” theme bleeding into psychedelia! The crowd cannot be loud enough, and I feel the same way.

Title: Caught in the Act | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Surfdog Records


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